The Sarah Jane Adventures music composer Dan Watts – a Scyfi Love interview

“YOU have to try one of these croissants, they’re fucking amazing!”

No, not a line from Gordon Ramsey’s new show, but the first words Russell T Davies ever said to Dan J Watts.

Dan, who composes the music for The Sarah Jane Adventures alongside his brother Sam, was sitting in a dubbing suite in Cardiff when the then Who and SJA supremo appeared.

He remembered: “It was my first time in Cardiff for the sound dub of episodes one and two in series two. When Russell walked in I didn’t know what to do with myself. I turned into a proper fanboy.

“The man is a god,  larger than life really, and a lovely bloke too. His first line meant I’d never forget meeting him, that’s for sure!”

It is one of many memorable moments Dan has enjoyed since he started working on the SJA, and he was busy working on the music for series four of the show in his studio in Yorkshire when he took time out for a chat. Click here to visit his website and listen to some of his work.

He entered the Whoniverse thanks to his brother Sam, who composed the music for the original one-hour pilot of the SJA. Dan started looking after the source music – music heard on TV or the radio in the show – for series one and then took a larger role from then on.

It is a long way from his previous job as a kitchen fitter, which he did for eight years, but he said he always had a passion for music. After playing keyboards and then guitar as a youngster, he earned his diploma from the Musicians Institute London and played semi-professionally in bands.

In 2005 with encouragement from his wife – “I owe her such a debt,” he says – he decided to try and work full time as a musician.

Dan said: “I sent out 150 CDs and got four replies back, which isn’t bad going. I managed to work on some short films and other work and then Sam asked me to help him with Sarah Jane.

“He is classically trained and got a first at University, while I came up through the technology side of things, so together there is a good mix there. It is great to be working so closely with Sam too and I will always be grateful to him for giving me the opportunity.

“I’m up in Yorkshire and he’s down in London but we speak and send each other music every day. When he meet up for a mixing session, we work hard, but there’s a lot of messing about too!”

There can’t be too much hi-jinks however, with the tight schedule of the SJA requiring them to score each 25-minute episode in around six days on average.

Dan explained they get sent a script, but don’t start to compose the music until they are sent the final edit.

He said: “It is always exciting when the new stuff gets sent through!

“They will shoot the episode completely, although without any special effects at that stage, and Sam will head for Cardiff for what is called a spotting session, where he watches the cut and discuss how the music will work. Sam and I will then divvy up the music between us and write it. Right now we’ve just finished episode one and two of series four.

“It is a tight schedule, but we are working on the fourth series now so we have a lot of music and themes in the back catalogue which we can adapt and re-use if they are appropriate. For instance, every one of the main characters has at least one theme.

“The team  in Cardiff are fantastic too and it has been that way from minute one. They have such a clear focus and are great to work with.”

Dan is also looking excited at the prospect of writing music for the new Doctor, Matt Smith, when he appears on the SJA in an episode which will be specially written by RTD.

“I have been a Doctor Who fan since I was a boy. Peter Davison was my Doctor – I can’t tell you how much I wanted to wear that cricket outfit –  and it was Davros that always sent me running behind the sofa,” he said.

“I also wrote quite a bit of the music when David Tennant was in the show, for the Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith.

“The new series of Who has been tremendous so far and I think Matt is brilliant in it so it will be good to write for him.”

Dan added he is a strong admirer of Doctor Who composer Murray Gold‘s work, and added: “Sam and I are going to the Doctor Who prom this year and we’re already excited about hearing his music with the full orchestra.

“There are few composers where you can tell a piece of music is theirs without reading the name and his work is like that. And when he nails it, he absolutely nails it.

“I think he has changed his approach to the Doctor in this series and made the music a bit more modern, as well as keeping the bombastic themes he does so well.

“Obviously Sam and I have had Murray’s work in mind because we are working on a Doctor Who spin off, although we haven’t discussed yet what we will be doing for the Doctor this time around.”

One thing is certain though. With Mr Davies on his way back, Dan had better keep an eye on those croissants.

Click here for part two of the interview – Dan picks his favourite science fiction music.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

One thought on “The Sarah Jane Adventures music composer Dan Watts – a Scyfi Love interview

Tell me what you think